The 6 Most Important Shipping Lines in the World

In a globalized economy, the most crucial shipping lines play a vital role in connecting businesses and consumers. These shipping lines move goods and materials around the globe, often on a tight schedule. Delays can cause costly disruptions. These are the businesses that have kept international supply chains going for the longest time and have shown to be the most reliable.

Various competitors have developed in this market, each with unique selling propositions, providing dependable and efficient service to shippers worldwide. Given the ever-increasing possibilities, we have compiled a list of some of the world’s most reliable and well-known shipping lines.

Mediterranean Shipping Company

Mediterranean Shipping Company

The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is an Italian-Swiss firm founded nearly half a century ago in 1970. It operates in all the ports worldwide and has been recognized as the first-largest shipping line over the past years. The company has earned revenues of more than $28 billion and has a staff of over 100,000 employees.

MSC was established in Naples in 1970 as a private firm by the seafarer Captain Gianluigi Aponte. He bought his first vessel, Patricia, and then Rafaela, to open a vital shipping line between the Mediterranean and Somalia. Afterward, the shipping line grew remarkably with the purchase of used cargo ships. The company started to enter Northern Europe, Africa, and the Indian Ocean by 1977. As expansion continued, by the end of the 1980s, MSC was serving ships to Australia and North America.

  • Year of establishment: 1970
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
  • Number of offices worldwide: 524
  • TEU capacity of the company: 4,313,568
  • Total market share: 17%
  • Number of ships owned by the company: 655


Maersk Shipping Line

Maersk, a Danish firm, is ranked #2 among the world’s top shipping companies. It has held the title of the world’s largest shipping firm since 1996, and it appears to have no plans to relinquish it anytime soon, with throughput exceeding 4 million TEU in 2020. Although listed in Denmark, the firm is a family business managed by the Möller family. We went to great lengths regarding this shipping line here.

The corporation, which was formed 116 years ago in 1904, had sales of more than $ 39 billion in 2019, with an operating profit of $ 3.8 billion and at least 83,000 employees. Although it is based in Copenhagen, it has subsidiaries and offices in nearly every country, with over 125 at the last revision.

  • Year of establishment: 1904
  • Headquarters: Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Number of offices worldwide: 296
  • TEU capacity of the company: 4,278,108
  • Total market share: 16.9%
  • Number of ships owned by the company: 732


CMA CGM Shipping Line

CMA CGM is a world leader in maritime transportation. The French shipping line operates in more than 160 countries and employs over 25,000 people. CMA CGM is committed to safety, security, and environmental protection and is also a leading provider of logistics services worldwide. The company has a fleet of over 500 ships and operates over 200 shipping routes.

The brand name originates from Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement (CMA) and Compagnie Générale Maritime (CGM), which is translated as “Maritime Freighting Company” and “General Maritime Company.” Partnering with COSCO and Evergreen, the company has recently accomplished the significant acquisition of nine LNG-powered Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs).

  • Year of establishment: 1978
  • Headquarters: Marseille, France
  • Number of offices worldwide: 755
  • TEU capacity of the company: 3,195,891
  • Total market share: 12.6%
  • Number of ships owned by the company: 569

COSCO Shipping

COSCO Shipping Line

COSCO Shipping Company is one of the world’s leading maritime transportation service providers. The shipping line was established in China in 1961 and had a long history of providing quality shipping services. COSCO Shipping operates a fleet of over 500 vessels and employs over 118,000 people. The company’s services include container, bulk, and general cargo shipping. COSCO Shipping also provides shipping services to and from China, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

COSCO Shipping is committed to providing quality shipping services at competitive prices. The company strongly focuses on customer service and strives to provide a safe and efficient shipping experience for all its customers. COSCO Shipping is an industry leader in maritime transportation and is dedicated to providing the best possible service to its customers.

  • Year of establishment: 1961
  • Headquarters: Shanghai, China
  • Number of offices worldwide: over 400
  • TEU capacity of the company: 2,923,481
  • Total market share: 11.5%
  • Number of ships owned by the company: 474


Hapag Lloyd Shipping Line

Hapag Lloyd is Germany’s most prominent shipping firm, founded 50 years ago in 1970. The company is headquartered in Hamburg and has massive revenues of over $12 billion with over 13,000 people. The company was established on September 1st, 1970, through the merger of two German shipping firms, Hamburg-American Line (HAPAG), established in 1847, and Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL), founded in 1857.

The shipping line provides 118 liner services worldwide and its cutting-edge reefer container fleet of 237 ships. Hapag-Lloyd’s vessels stop at 600 ports and are well-known to afford reliable international trade connections. The shipping company is a well-recognized ocean carrier for the Middle East, Intra-America, Latin America, and Transatlantic trades.

  • Year of establishment: 1970
  • Headquarters: Hamburg, Germany
  • Number of offices worldwide: 394
  • TEU capacity of the company: 1,749,229
  • Total market share: 6.9%
  • Number of ships owned by the company: 250

Ocean Network Express

Ocean Network Express Shipping Line

Ocean Network Express (ONE) is jointly owned by various Japanese companies, headquartered in Tokyo and Singapore. It is the most recently-formed shipping line on our list, starting only five years ago in 2017. The company currently employs over 14,000 people. The company, which started corporate activities and sales in October 2017, commenced trading in April 2018, with a holding office in Tokyo, global offices in Singapore, and regional headquarters in London, Hong Kong, and Sao Paulo, plus numerous local offices in 90 countries.

Although ONE is a relatively young company, it owns a fleet of 240 container vessels and 31 container ships with a capacity of 20,000 TEU each. It also has over 14,000 reefer containers serving shipping requirements worldwide.

  • Year of establishment: 2017
  • Headquarters: Singapore
  • Number of offices worldwide: 217
  • TEU capacity of the company: 1,530,388
  • Total market share: 6.0%
  • Number of ships owned by the company: 208

The Final Word

Shipping lines are essential for the logistics industry worldwide because they allow people and goods to move between countries. They also help to boost trade and the economy by making it possible for businesses to send and receive goods from other parts of the world. The six shipping lines we introduced in this post are currently the most recognized, reliable giants serving most regions worldwide. However, the list is endless. Do you know any other significant shipping lines to add to the list above? Please do not hesitate to share your ideas with us in the comments.

RankNameCurrent TEUCurrent ShipsMarket Share
1MSC                       4,313,56865517%
2APM-Maersk                4,278,10873216.9%
3CMA CGM Group3,195,89156912.6%
4COSCO Group2,923,48147411.5%
6ONE                       1,530,3882086.0%
7Evergreen Line          1,479,6282055.8%
8HMM823,361 773.2%
9Yang Ming  663,862912.6%
11Wan Hai Lines412,2131451.6%
13KMTC161,248 690.6%
14X-Press Feeders150,783980.6%
15IRISL Group150,040 330.6%
18Zhonggu Logistics124,621 1000.5%
20TS Lines108,986 540.4%


What is the most extensive shipping line in the world?

The world’s most extensive shipping line is Maersk, a Danish company.

Why are shipping lines so important?

Shipping lines are essential for the logistics industry because they help to boost trade and the economy by making it possible for businesses to send and receive goods from other parts of the world.

What is the youngest major shipping line in the world?

Ocean Network Express (ONE), headquartered in Tokyo and Singapore, is the most recently-formed shipping line, starting only five years ago in 2017.

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